A Day in Goldieland

By alexvndra.ja

Tucked away in a discreet Brooklyn studio is Goldieland. Goldie is an artist, glass-blower, sculptor, and feminist. Her works have been exhibited in various parts of Europe, Asia and the United States. Born in the Philippines, she moved to the US for her MFA degree in Glass in Rhode Island. Her artistic themes revolve around women, Philippine culture, politics, sensuality, sexuality, ecofeminism and immigration. They are inspired by nature, personal accounts, and more particularly, the Woman. “My work is sensual and erotic, based on intuition and carnal knowledge.” Inspired by the concept of the divine feminine, she uses her art to express the sides of women society has tried to oppress. Schwartz and Cook acknowledge that women have been excluded from society’s memory tools.¹ Casswell also asserts, “I might go further to say that just as patriarchy required women to be subservient, invisible handmaidens to male power, historians and other users of archives require archivists to be neutral, invisible, silent handmaidens of historical research.”² Artists, like archivists, are also historians. Goldie hopes to remedy the exclusion by representing women through her art.

 

She uses glass, scent, and sound installations as mediums to tell stories of history. She describes glass blowing as “immersive” because it demands traditional and culturally deep-rooted, memory-based movements. The artist must use movements to tune-in with the alchemical transformation of glass into a sculpture. While scent, she claims, awakens the “feeling” body stored in our memories. It is sentimental as well as significant. Goldie is what Dabello would refer to as a heritage practitioner, whose purpose is to “communicate cultural imperatives while allowing for the proves of signification to occur, and social significance to be established.” ³ Significance, claims Dabello, stems from what society deems important that is assimilated into traditions that shape a society’s memory. Maurice Halbwachs confirms this when he wrote that, “No memory is possible outside frameworks used by people living in society to determine and retrieve their recollections.” ¹

 

Goldie tells me “When we are faced with loss or devastation, the most precious things we have are our memories.” She first discovered the power of smell in 2009 when her village in the Philippines was almost completely destroyed by typhoon Yolanda. During the aftermath, the smells and tastes of the places she loved still remained fresh in her memory. Goldie believes that smells form a significant part of our cultural heritage because they are stored in our collective memory. She references Dr. Devon E. Hinton’s study of the relation between smell and loss. Scent triggers the limbic system which consequently triggers memories that manifest through emotions. He had documented refugees experiencing panic attacks triggered by the smell of smoke. Trying to heal from her own loss from the typhoon, she delved into the idea of using scent as a medium of expression. Goldie, just like an archivist, taps into her memories, extracts stored information, and presents them in a way of “shared cultural understanding.” ¹

 

Goldie shares her studio with other budding artists. A large shelf displays her glass sculptures, most are representations the feminine figure and the female genitalia. Beside her shelf is an impressive collection of books about smells, emotions, scents, aromatherapy and aromacology.  Above the books are blue bottles filled with her recent scent creations. Each are named after a specific goddess. She let me smell each of them, explaining to me what their individual scents evoke. I gravitated towards one scent named “Helen” because smelling it made me feel incredibly good. Goldie explained that Helen is the goddess of the hunt, and the scent is a mix of Neroli and Cedarwood essences. Laughing at my bewildered face, she whipped out a book to show me what the oils represent. Neroli is derived from the Orange tree flower, and it was a popular scent during the ancient Egyptian times. It is supposed to ease stress, anxiety and fear with its calming aroma. Cedarwood relieves depression by providing comfort and emotional balance. She insisted I  keep Helen as a souvenir.

 

When asked about her past exhibits, she exclaimed that one of her favorite exhibits is called Sonata-Ambient Scentscapes. It merges glass, scent and color into one unique musical performance. She had six scent “notes” paired with six different colors. The scent and color correlations were based on synesthesia, where scent and colors are closely associated with each other. These “notes,” played simultaneously, created a scent or unique perfume. She then collaborated with two musicians to play live music while her glass sculptures diffused the scents for every chord played. Her inspiration for this exhibit was Septimus Piesse’s book written in the 18th century. He wrote, “Scents, like sounds, appear to influence the olfactory nerve in certain definite degrees.”⁵ His concept is now more popularly referred to as “smound.”

 

She is currently working on a group exhibit that will feature iterations of her past Flower Dance- an installation piece using glass, flowers and scent. She explained that her glass sculptures will be mounted on walls to hold the flowers, each size representing the flower growth movements. She is in the process of creating the smells that will represent her chosen flower colors, namely red, blue and violet. Her exhibit will be featured together with other artists in the Overhang Gallery of Greenpoint, Brooklyn on the last weekend of April 2017.

 

When I asked her about her sources of inspiration, she referred again to loss- this time more in detail. She has suffered the loss of her community during the typhoon, loss of friends when they turned into guerillas to fight in the mountains of the Philippines, loss of love, but the most painful was the loss of self. She has actively recalled those painful memories through smells, in order to tell stories through her art. She understands that smell is subjective. She does not impose her scents on her viewers, because each smell gives each person a unique experience. Instead, she tries to represent her work in the most authentic way possible, by speaking her truth, in hopes that her viewers understand her stories.

 

 

 

¹ Schwartz, J. M., & Cook, T. (2002). Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

 

 

² Caswell, “The Archive’ is Not An Archives: Acknowledging the Intellectual Contributions of Archival Studies.” Reconstruction Vol. 16, No. 1.

 

³  Dalbello, Marija. (2009). “Digital Cultural Heritage: Concepts, Projects, and Emerging Constructions of Heritage.” Proceedings of the Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference, 25-30 May, 2009.

 

4 Goldieland. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.goldieland.com

 

Hyperakt & Social Impact

By alexvndra.ja

Hyperakt is an award-winning, social impact design agency based in Brooklyn, NYC. Their mission is to enable and empower change-makers and next-generation leaders by giving them a voice to “tell their stories.” Through intelligent design, content and brand strategy, they have successfully transformed complex information into user-friendly representations, accessible through a variety of technological and digital platforms across the globe.

 

As their way of involving and further giving back to the community, they host their famous monthly “Lunch Talks” where they invite “thought leaders” and creative agencies to share their insights, experiences and works to the public for free.

 

Pratt’s UXPA had the opportunity to visit their design studio last March 8, 2017. We were welcomed by the team, toured around the studio, and finally ushered into their meeting room. Alex Gracey, the studio and community manager, explained to us in depth about the company’s mission, vision and goals. He then showcased a few of their many successful endeavors. One of their prominent projects was with iMentor.

 

iMentor was one of their clients who sought their help to rebrand their image. The organization wanted to stand out from their competitors, and gain more funding for long-term sustainability. One of their core beliefs is that “education opportunity opens up a world of possibility.” Their mission is to recruit mentors to partner up with high-school students from low-income backgrounds. Through this partnership, students are given proper educational support in order for them to “graduate high-school and succeed in college, and achieve their ambitions.”

 

As Brenda Dervin and Michael Nilan (1986) proposed ¹, the current view of experience should take on a holistic approach-as opposed to the traditional method that confines problem solving within context. They argue that we should “look at information behaviors outside system context.” Hyperakt did just that. They not only focused on iMentor’s brand image, but they went as far as rebranding through content strategy and web design. During the process, one of the hardest questions posed was, “If iMentor was a person, how would you describe her personality?” After careful deliberation, iMentor solidified their identity, stating that “she” was “Daring, smart, inspiring, honest, and put people first.”

 

Hyperakt then shifted their focus to the students, closely examining how their design solutions could evoke meaning to them. Bates ² writes that information is not only derived from paper or from people. We absorb information from our physical surroundings, the spacing and dimensions of our environment, the design of our tools and our modes of communication. She emphasizes that the most important way of acquiring information is when we interact with all of these elements in our everyday real-world situations and circumstances.

 

The way information is presented impacts action and the way audiences respond. When Hyperakt redesigned the logo, they patterned the “i” in iMentor to look like the top of a graduation cap, symbolic to the end goal- graduating. They then created other patterns of school-related  icons related that played with their “i” design. In summary, they successfully merged iconography, symbols, the use of affective imagery and design that were meaningful representations to their target users.

 

After Alex discussed some of their other projects, he then handed the talk over to Hyperakt’s Principal and Creative Director, Deroy Perez.

 

Deroy introduced us to Hyperakt’s award-winning (and ongoing) passion project- The Refugee Project. In collaboration with Ekene Ijeoma, a designer and programmer, they created a platform that visually interprets thousands of refugee data for the public to easily understand.

 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was faced with the challenge of converting their raw data into representations easily communicable to the public. This was a clear example of what Dervin and Nilan referred to when they wrote that user design studies should shift to a more qualitative approach. Hyperakt’s goal was to connect and make the public aware of the past and present refugee crisis through factual and engaging visual interpretations. This was done in hopes that if awareness was created, change would then follow. They wanted to paint a picture, through an interactive map, and tell the stories behind the 35 million refugees displaced across 126 countries.

 

In order to do that, a “compelling narrative” was needed to justly represent the hardships and realities of the refugees. Lopatovska and Arapakis ³ write that emotions instigate actions. The interactive map illustrates a timeline of migration patterns with accounts behind each turmoil. It includes recorded testimonies, written journals, and photographs captured throughout the devastation. It opened-up a channel for untold stories to be heard, giving a voice to refugees, and promoting global awareness by sharing to the world their plight.

 

The website allows users to view and compare the refugee population of different countries from 1975-2015. Circular indicators, surrounding each country, represent the number of refugee nationals living overseas. The size of the circle is directly proportional to the number of refugees in a given country. The bigger the circle, the greater the number of refugees, indicating some form of unrest causing citizens to seek refuge outside their homeland. Lines connecting countries represent where refugees have sought sanctuary. Users can switch their views to see the refugee percentage of a country’s population.  A heat map is also available to represent the global migrants through the years.  The small sticky-note like icon links users to articles about the crisis/es taking place during a specific year in a country.

 

The Refugee Project gained international recognition and attention, receiving various awards worldwide. According to Domus and The Atlantic ⁴, this project was a clear “example of how graphic designers are turning their attention to framing data that stimulates action.” It is an ongoing and collaborative project, updated yearly. Deroy and his whole team are proud of their work, and do not receive any income from this project. It is their labor of love, and their way of giving back.

 

Design, like art, is emotive in nature. Whether it is crafting an experience, conveying a message, or simply channeling one’s expressions, design is a powerful tool that can truly impact its audience and instigate action. A human-centered approach is necessary to achieve this. Such is what Hyperakt has done and continues to accomplish.

 

1 Talja, S. & Hartel, J. (2007). “Revisiting the user-centered turn in information science research: an intellectual history perspective,” Information Research 12(4).http://InformationR.net/ir/12-4/colis/colis04.html

2 Bates, M. J. (2006). “Fundamental forms of information.” Journal of the American Society for Information and Technology 57(8): 1033–1045. http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/bates/articles/NatRep_info_11m_050514.html.

3 Lopatovska, I., & Arapakis, I. Theories, methods and current research on emotions in library and infor- mation science, information retrieval and human–computer interaction. Information Processing and Management (2010), doi:10.1016/ j.ipm.2010.09.001

4 Hyperakt Labs. Mapping 40 years of global refugee migrations. Retrieved from http://hyperakt.com/items/refugee-project

 

A Critical Look Into Archivist Ethics

By alexvndra.ja

Archivists, according to Schwartz & Cook, “wield power over the shape and direction of historical scholarship, collective memory, and national identity over how we know ourselves as individuals, group and societies.” Based on their freedom to keep or discard records, our cultural heritage is thus molded from the remnants of these social memories. Despite their constant denial of this power, their authority influences generations beyond our time.

 

When authority like this is disregarded and unnoticed, it becomes detrimental to serving public interest when used to uphold private interests such as political power. The concept of neutrality in the archivist’s profession is subject to much speculation.  The “truth,” then, becomes a questionably delicate issue. In order to maintain public trust and to settle conflicts, professional standards had to be established.

 

In 1980, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) produced their first draft of Core Values and Code of Ethics. The role of the archivist was a transferal role from the National Archivist’s Code of Ethics published in 1955. The 1955 code presented the archivist as having a “moral obligation to society to preserve evidence of how things actually happened.” The 1980 code focused on the “professional responsibility” with its purpose to “resolve problems arising from conflict of interest.” This implied that public interest and participation were growing. The archivists had to acknowledge and cater to the public good.

 

The SAA code was revised in 1992, 2005, and finally in 2011. It is currently comprised of 11 Core Values and 7 Code of Ethics principles. While having guidelines like these may be beneficial, there are problematic loopholes that still need to be addressed.

 

The first principle emphasizes that Professional Relationships must be maintained. The archivists are called to uphold a moral and professional relationship with fellow archivists, their institutions, creators, contributors and users involved in the process.

 

The second, Judgment, is controversial but defines the very nature of the profession. It states that archivist use “professional judgment” when dealing with the entire process of historical and heritage preservation. There is obscene power the archivist holds over judgment of value. Caswell states that “assignation of value is the greatest expression of archival power.” Archivists deny the presence of biases, as their profession advocates objectivity and neutrality- a state Jensen ascertains is impossible. He expounds that being neutral is passive acceptance of the present therefore it cannot exist. There is no neutral ground and the only remedy is to acknowledge the reality-that the non-existence of neutrality is the source of conflicts and hinders us from growing. Archivists keep what they feel is relevant to whatever their own view of reality is. Humans are naturally selective based on their own world view. Therefore, there will always be a lack of exercising professional judgment appraising or giving value to records.

 

The third (Authenticity) and fourth (Security and Protection) principles go hand-in-hand when talking about digital preservation. Today’s information overload exacerbates the struggle to digitally preserve records. The problem first lies in what we choose to preserve. Cloonan asks, “Do we preserve just the information in a document or the physical object itself?” Because digital files are easily modified, or even deleted, she continues “digital texts are neither final or finite. The experience of using digital documents will be different with each new generation.” The experience of using digital documents will be different with each new generation.” This is true. Digital media files, their hardware, and software have limited lifespans. Dalbello recommends data migration-it being the popular choice of preserving data. One of the remedies she suggests is through the production of emulators. Emulators mirror the original hardware and software but make them accessible and usable in the future versions. Cloonan, however, argues that “When cultural remnants are placed into a contemporary context, something new is created.” Therefore, the authenticity, when transferring records, is taken away. Preservation, according to her, is a paradox. Anything taken out of its original place, time or context is naturally altered and therefore not authentic.

 

The fifth principle is Access and Use. Archives should be easily accessible, open and transparent. However, the privatization of some archives limits the public’s access historically significant files. Rosenwig contests the privatization of such institutions. Private corporations have taken over archives which should be public because it serves public interest. The government has restricted power over regulating the archives.

 

The sixth principle is Privacy. It states that “Archivists recognize that Privacy is sanctioned by law…Archivists promote the respectful use of culturally sensitive materials in their care by encouraging researchers to consult with communities of origin, recognizing that privacy has both legal and cultural dimensions.” The question is if this take on privacy serves the public good. An example would be Hillary Clinton’s emails. Legally, illegally obtained “evidence” is not permissible in court. Thousands of controversial emails were illegally exposed and faced public scrutiny. It should not be archived in order to protect privacy laws. However, the contents are significant and serve public interest. Should the archivists add the emails to the archive? Given that it was a big volume of communication, archivists would still have to use their judgment to nit pick what to archive therefore not taking in the whole context.

 

The last principle is Trust. All the issues and controversies stated have shaken public trust to a certain degree. Caswell asserts that archivists should concede to the presence of bias and encourage participation with the public. This allows for open communication and forums, giving the public a more active participatory role in the process.

 

Since codes of ethics are not laws, they are not subject to legal sanctions. The extent of their enforcement varies from each institution with no standardized procedure. In the event of legal violation, how is accountability determined? How are penalties imposed? This area is still a shade of grey as the SAA states “The current code is aspirational.. SAA does not have the means to enforce a code of ethics.”

 

Although they serve as good guiding principles, there are still so many gaps to be filled. We must not only circumscribe the missing pieces, but create a process to efficiently enforce them.

 

Jensen, R. (2006). The myth of the neutral professional. Electronic Magazine of Multicultural Education, 8(2), 1-9. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://www.eastern.edu/publications/emme/2006fall/jensen.pdf

Rosenzweig, R. (2003). Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era. The American Historical Review, 108(3), 735-762. Retrieved February 22, 2017 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/529596 .

Caswell, M. “The Archive” is Not An Archives: Acknowledging the Intellectual Contributions of Archival Studies. Reconstruction, 16(1) from http://reconstruction.eserver.org/Issues/161/Caswell.shtml

Dalbello, Marija. (2009). “Digital Cultural Heritage: Concepts, Projects, and Emerging Constructions of Heritage.” Proceedings of the Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference, 25-30 May, 2009 from https://lms.pratt.edu/pluginfile.php/672475/mod_resource/content/1/Dalbello_LIDA2009_text_2_dlist.pdf

Cloonan, M. (April 2001). W(H)ITHER Preservation? The Library Quarterly. 71(2), 231-242. Retrieved February 21, 2017 from                                                         http://www.jstor.org/stable/4309507?origin=JSTOR-pdf&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Schwartz, J. & Cook, T. (2002). 2. 1-19. Retrieved February 20, 2017 from https://lms.pratt.edu/pluginfile.php/672476/mod_resource/content/1/schwartz%2C%20cook-archives%2C%20records%2C%20power.pdf

Thompson, Rachel E. (Rachel Elizabeth), “Deserving of trust: ethics in the American Archival profession” (2011). WWU Masters Thesis Collection. Paper 160. Retrieved February 22, 2017 from http://cedar.wwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1159&context=wwuet

Cline, S. (1989). The Development of Ethics in Archival Practice. American Archivist. 52. 64-71. Retrieved February 22, 2017 from http://americanarchivist.org/doi/pdf/10.17723/aarc.52.1.nk661527341j0610?code=same-site

 

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