Posts Tagged social networking

DMVI schools workshops

On Thursday 13 October, we held two workshops with local schools to explore the potential use of the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration as a teaching and learning tool. The fact that the database is full of images that illustrate literary texts and contain a wealth of historic detail makes it significant for a range of humanities subjects, including English literature, history and religious studies.

The morning workshop consisted of staff and students from Stanwell Comprehensive School in Penarth. The first exercise involved giving the participants 25 illustrations and asking them to arrange them in order, with the aim of analysing how pictures can create narratives. Anthony had spent a considerable amount of time cutting the images out with great precision and they looked impressive spread along the desks. Some interesting stories emerged, a few of which came near to recreating the actual source text (Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner). We then gave out the captions to see if that would help or hinder the creation of the story. The exercise was a very valuable one both for the participants and for us because it made us think about the relation between word and image in illustration and how these Victorian pictures can be ‘read’. The second half of the session involved a demonstration of the database and the new social networking features, which the students seemed to particularly enjoy. They were given the chance to try it out for themselves before a very hearty buffet lunch was served.

We had just about demolished the chocolate éclairs when the next school arrived for the afternoon session: St David’s College, Cardiff. We tried out the same exercises again with similar interesting results. This group were slightly older and managed to work out that the pictures were from Coleridge’s poem. After another demonstration of the database, tea arrived, so we forced ourselves to eat more plates of sandwiches and crisps.

The day provided us with lots of ideas of how to go forward with the education strand of the project and convinced us that this was really something worth doing. The feedback from the students suggested that the workshop had made them think differently about illustration and its value, so our job was done. Now all that was left was to do was to finish off that plate of muffins …

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Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration, Phase 2 launch event: 29 Sep 2011

Background to the project
The first version of the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration (www.dmvi.cf.ac.uk) was launched in January 2007, emerging out of a desire to raise the profile and status of Victorian illustration, both within academia and beyond. Based in Cardiff University’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research and with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the aim of the DMVI project was to digitize and mount on a publicly accessible website a cross-section of illustrations from different literary texts by a range of artists and engravers. Key innovations included the ability to view the over 850 illustrations at high resolutions, a sophisticated system of iconographic classification to describe the content of each image, as well as rigorous bibliographical and technical data. 

The current phase
In 2010, a second AHRC grant was obtained to enhance the database and make its innovative technologies accessible to the widest possible audience – in terms of language, location, background and user profile. Elements of DMVI had already been deployed in external projects, and this second phase has opened up the possibilities even further. Working with the University of Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute, the project team has expanded the core elements of DMVI to include:

  • conversion to an open-source platform compliant with today’s web standards
  • extension of our iconographic cataloguing system to communicate with other platforms (e.g. ICONCLASS)
  • enhancement of the advanced search capabilities and user experience/interface
  • integration with Web 2.0 technologies (e.g. Facebook), to support user engagement, interaction and feedback
  • development of teaching resources through pilot workshops with local schools and colleges

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this phase will be our release in October of an open-source Digital Image Curation Environment (DICE), which allows users to create web-based systems for displaying, cataloguing and describing their own image collections. DICE is an easy to use system aimed at individual users, groups and small institutions, in order to enable group or public participation in community and outreach projects, making it ideal for local history clubs, galleries and museums, and individual collectors, as well as researchers within academia. By making DICE freely accessible under Creative Commons licensing, the project team hopes to support and encourage other researchers, teachers and collectors, by dramatically reducing the technical development costs and timescales associated with similar projects. From the familiar context of a web-browser, potential creators will be able to upload their collections of paintings, maps, photographs and any other image-based material; describe their content using our preloaded vocabularies or devise their own ones; add important technical and bibliographical data; and supply additional contextual material, such as hyperlinks, essays and annotations.

Launch event
On 29 September 2011 at 3pm, the DMVI team will be celebrating the completion of this second phase by holding a launch event in the Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) for the expanded and enhanced database. The event will include demonstrations about the new DMVI system, an overview of the DICE image management system and a discussion of applications of both resources to research and teaching.  

The launch event will be followed at 5pm by a drinks reception and the inaugural Cardiff Rare Books and Music Lecture, to be delivered by Professor Hans Walter Gabler (University of Munich), who will be presenting ‘Ideas towards Interfacing Digital Humanities Research’, as part of the University’s Distinguished Lecturer Series.

Professor Gabler is known for his pioneering work on manuscript and genetic criticism, particularly his landmark genetic edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The titles of some of his recent publications testify to the significance of his current research: ‘Making Texts for the Next Century’, ‘There is Virtue in Virtuality: Future Potentials of Electronic Humanities Scholarship’ and ‘Theorizing the Digital Scholarly Edition’. Professor Gabler is currently Chair of the international COST Action Open Scholarly Communities on the Web initiative, the aim of which is to create a research and publication infrastructure on the web and an advanced e-learning system for the Arts and Humanities.

If you’d like to come along to the event, please get in touch via CEIR@cardiff.ac.uk.

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Beyond Collections: Crowdsourcing for Public Engagement conference

On 26 May 2011, a one-day conference was held at the University of Oxford, titled ‘Beyond Collections: Crowdsourcing for Public Engagement’ (details of the conference and video recordings of the speakers are available here). The event was hosted by Oxford’s RunCoCo community collections facilitation project and sponsored by JISC. The aim was to explore the ways in which online communities can participate in and add value to digital resources—to the mutual benefit of both projects and participants.

Speakers from inside and outside academia with experience of the advantages and pitfalls of a crowdsourcing approach told their stories, and the intention was also to locate the potential for harnessing the power of online communities within wider discourses of grass-roots civic leadership, entrepreneurship, and the politics of the ‘Big Society’—not to mention the all-pervasive HE context of the REF’s ‘impact’ and ‘engagement’ agendas.

As part of the Enhancing DMVI project, the team are looking at the possibilities for developing tools which will allow communities of users to describe (tag) digital images in various ways. We are also interested in the potential for people to come together and share their readings and discussions of Victorian illustrations. It was from this perspective that we attended the ‘Beyond Collections’ day—hoping to benefit from the experience of previous projects. Read the rest of this entry »

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Enhancing DMVI: Illustration and teaching

One of the aims of the current Enhancing DMVI project is to explore the educational possibilities for the Database of Mid-Victorian Wood-Engraved Illustration, beyond its primary audience of HE staff and students. To that end, the project team held a meeting with Professor Richard Andrews – of the Institute of Education, University of London – on Thursday 19 May. Professor Andrews has a wealth of experience in the theory and practice of teaching English in schools and of the education sector in general, and was able to suggest a number of potential avenues, as well as a give us invaluable practical advice on how to take this part of the project forward.

There are two broad ways in which DMVI and its methodologies might feasibly be utilised by schools and colleges. Firstly, the freely-downloadable Open Source Image Curation System, which will be developed as part of the project, will allow users (including schools) to create their own bespoke image databases. The choice of images will lie entirely with the user, and the pictures could relate to any subject – not only arts and humanities, but also maths, science or any other part of the curriculum. The development of an individual database and the creation of the associated tags, metadata and commentary could be undertaken by pupils as part of a range of project work.

Secondly, DMVI itself offers considerable scope for secondary and further education. Its hundreds of Victorian illustrations have obvious benefits as adjuncts to English Literature texts. Much more widely, the images hold significance for any number of subjects and questions. Illustrations can be used to explore the mechanics of narrative and storytelling; to teach history – particularly social history, but also the history of science, politics, warfare; in religious studies – to examine visual representations of different faiths and of the spiritual world; in art and art history – where wood engraving can be studied both as an historical technique and as a living medium. The possibilities are vast.

Our eventual hope is to hold two workshops involving teachers and pupils – one in Cardiff and one in London – and to develop these ideas into more concrete packages that would offer flexible teaching aids for a range of subjects. This is still some way off and this particular project strand is likely to remain in the developmental stage in the short term. What is clear, however, is that taking DMVI into schools has the potential to be an extremely exciting way to think about and promote the study of illustration.

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DMVI Social Networking Workshop

On Thursday 17 March, we held the second Enhancing DMVI workshop. The theme of the day was social networking, and the broad aim was to investigate the ways in which online communities (after the fashion of sites such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace) might be encouraged to participate in the processes of tagging, analysing and commenting on digital representations of Victorian art. The participants (to all of whom the DMVI team extend many thanks) were an eclectic cross-section, consisting of students and staff from a number of Cardiff University departments, including English Literature, Language and Communication, Computer Science and Libraries/Archives.

The first session was an exercise designed to highlight some of the practical issues involved in tagging images. Participants were split into groups, and asked to provide keywords for a set of pictures, which had been taken from various websites which employ iconographic descriptors (‘tags’). The groups’ tags were then compared with the pre-existing sets of words – with some interesting results. In this part of the workshop, we also wanted to explore the possibility of employing established high-level categories, based on those used for DMVI, and compare the results when users’ tagged inside and outside an external framework.

The second session introduced the group to DMVI’s prototype Facebook App and online-tagging pages, and involved analysis of the some of the practical problems relating to user-generated iconographic description. As well as getting feedback on the webpage structure and point of entry, we also wanted to look at what might motivate people to come to and use such a site, and to think about the research aims that might be served by creating and maintaining an online community of taggers (not only for humanities scholars, but also for the computer scientists who would necessarily design and deliver any such system, and who have their own research interests to consider). A number of existing social-networking sites, and their methods of attracting and retaining users were discussed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Enhancing the Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration

Just a quick update to introduce myself and say I’m glad to be back at Cardiff and looking forward to working as the research associate on the new phase of DMVI. I’m still getting to grips with the project programme and trying to get in touch with all of the various people involved, but things are proceeding apace and we’ve got lots to look forward to in the new year.

As a reminder, the elements of the project are as follows: the database will be converted to open source software and remodelled to facilitate web-based data-entry; the iconographic cataloguing system will be extended to allow multi-lingual searches and will be integrated with another popular visual hierarchy, Iconclass; the iconographic system will be made available as an Open Source Image Curation System; the scope for integrating DMVI’s systems with Web 2.0 social networking technologies will be modelled; and the possibilities for developing DMVI as a teaching resource will be explored.

The aim of all this is to make the innovative technologies and methodologies developed by DMVI accessible to the widest possible audience – in terms of language, location, discipline and user profile. Elements of DMVI have already been deployed in other projects dealing with themes as varied as the history of Manchester and the history of Victorian periodicals. After the completion of this programme of research and enhancements, much more will be possible.

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